Shapps sends active travel strategy into tailspin


Grant Shapps has continued his attempts to mollify motorists over the impact of new measures to boost active travel with a letter to local authorities, then leaked to a national newspaper.

The transport secretary wrote to the leaders of local transport authorities in advance of the second round of allocations from the Emergency Active Travel Fund.

The first funding round saw councils install – on his advice – changes such as pop-up cycle facilities and widened footways, often reducing space for motorised traffic and parking. Councils were advised to get on and implement measures before any guidance or even cash allocations were provided.

In the letter, Mr Shapps acknowledged that ‘a great number of schemes have represented smart and considered use of the funding, which has genuinely improved the local transport networks in areas, and helped improve the lives of local residents and all road users'.

But he added: ‘There were a significant minority of instances where schemes were, frankly, nowhere near good enough. He said that he had seen or heard of ‘far too many instances where temporary cycle lanes were unused due to their location and design, while their creation left motor traffic backed up alongside them [and] of wide pavements causing unnecessary congestion in town centres’.

The transport secretary repeated his threat to steer new funding towards councils that have consulted communities and, in his opinion, embraced good design principles, and away from those that ‘have not been able to demonstrate this to the same extent’.

'The crucial test is, does it deliver for the community it serves and has it been done with their consultation.'

However, many of the changes, such as pop-up cycleways, were installed using emergency traffic regulation orders (ERTOs).  These were brought in by the Government in June to speed up the regulation order process in relation to COVID-specific measures.

They do require consultation, but not before the scheme is implemented. The consultation exercise can take place when the scheme is already in place, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling said.

Mr Shapps ended his letter with a paragraph that touched on issues beyond the remit of the local authority leaders to whom it was addressed and appears to have been included to reassure drivers that he no longer sought to deter car use.

He wrote: ‘No one should be in doubt about our support for motorists. This Government is investing £27bn to upgrade our roads and more to tackle potholes. We’re also investing in charging infrastructure to speed the transition to electric vehicles, which will allow motorists the same freedom, while meeting our commitments to climate change.’

Transport Network has approached the Local Government Association for comment.

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